NASHVILLE, Tenn. — While the East Division title has been long out of reach for Vanderbilt, there is plenty to play for this weekend when the Commodores take the field Thursday at Hawkins Field to begin a three-game series against Louisiana State.
Vandy goes into the weekend tied for fifth place in the overall SEC standings. One of those teams it is even with? The Tigers of LSU.
Thus, much is at stake during the penultimate weekend in May.
“We’re having a lot of fun and everybody is definitely jelling and relaxing and enjoying being around each other because our time is limited. We realize that,” Vanderbilt outfielder Spencer Jones said. “I think everybody is just doing a better job of staying present and being in the moment on the field and it has really been showing with our play right now.”
The Commodores (35-16, 14-13 SEC), who have won six of eight after Tuesday’s 7-2 triumph over Middle Tennessee, begin the final SEC series 1 1/2-games back of fourth-place Auburn. Vandy likely needs to sweep LSU and have Auburn go winless in Lexington, Kentucky, to earn a top-four seed at next week’s league tourney.
Otherwise, a single-elimination game awaits Vanderbilt on Tuesday in Hoover, Alabama.
But before then, LSU comes to Nashville for the first time since 2018. The Tigers (34-18, 14-13 SEC) broke a three-game losing streak on Tuesday by beating Northwestern State 19-7.
Both teams will not only be hoping to improve their current SEC Tournament seeding, but they will also be trying to continue to build their respective resumes when it comes to the national postseason.
“I just can’t get there yet because we have such a big series coming up this weekend,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said of postseason prognostications. “Every series is an open opportunity for someone to pitch again or maybe for the first time. And that’s how we look at it. This time of year you typically find someone who hasn’t helped you yet that’s going to. That’s very exciting. That’s almost one of those situations you long to see.
“I hope that happens this weekend – and I just want to play well.”
Vandy, which has an RPI of 3, went 21-3 in its regular-season nonconference schedule. It has won back-to-back SEC series – both on the road – and is five wins away from reaching 40 victories for the third season in a row (not counting the 2020 campaign).
Every win from now until the end of the month becomes vitally important in creating momentum for the NCAA Tournament.
“Playing more baseball at The Hawk is what we really want to do. We don’t want this to be our last weekend here,” Jones said. “We knew that coming down to it we needed to play some good baseball if we wanted to host. Trying to take care of business to get that stuff squared away.”
First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday following by a 6 p.m. start Friday and a 1 p.m. Saturday finale. Vandy will hand the ball to Devin Futrell (8-1, 2.52) for Thursday’s pitching start, Christian Little (1-1, 2.96) on Friday and Chris McElvain (5-4, 3.93) on Saturday.